For most of my life, I felt like a failure. Part of that is because words of affirmation are my love language. If you have people in your life who regularly affirm you, then you feel like a success. But if there are even a few who give negative words, you remember those, carry them with you and they define you.
It started early for me when I would get teased in school, like in third grade when I was sure everyone would be happy for me that I got glasses and could finally see the blackboard. Instead, when I stood up to give my Show and Tell which was my new glasses, a mean boy said, “Look at the four-eyed fatso,” and everyone laughed.
That became my description of myself and played on repeat in my mind for most of my life. So when I was an adult and some rude college boys mooed at me on campus, I figured, “Why not. I am a big, fat cow.”
That caused lying thoughts from the enemy to attack me. “You deserve that. You are a failure. Every single person who sees you wants to do the same thing those boys just did. They were just being honest with you.”
In the midst of all of this I never once felt or thought what might have helped me which was, “Well, yeah, but Jesus loves me. He calls me His child. He accepts me. He calls me beautiful.”
Instead, I felt God was secretly applauding those boys. Maybe God was even instrumental in their derision of me. This wasn’t a new lie. I had already been telling myself this for years. One doesn’t gain an enormous amount of pounds without feeling the weight of shame and the extreme sense of failure it brings.
I Didn’t Like Me
When we don’t like ourselves, we don’t think we are worth investing the time and energy to make changes. We don’t believe there could be anything worthwhile inside us. When we hate ourselves, we don’t even feel like we have the right to live. When we feel like failures, it makes us want to crawl in a hole and never come out.
We are sure whatever great gifts, talents and skills God put inside us when He saw us before we were being formed in utter seclusion must have been given to someone else. This grows into there is no hope for us. We would be better off dead, even our family would be better off if we weren’t here.
This becomes a very scary stronghold. It doesn’t seem like a lie because we think it’s true. We have to learn how to love ourselves but when we are caught in this lie, we don’t believe we are worth loving because we are failures.
When I was a kid, I was not a failure and I was not fat, but both felt like truths when I heard the entire third-grade class laughing. I won’t say the rude student was the devil, but the devil sure used him to set up a foundational lie in me. “You’re a four-eyed fatso” played on repeat in my mind for years after.
Failure, Shame and Condemnation
Feelings speak louder than cognitive thoughts. My thoughts are shifted by my emotions. My feelings used a third grader’s words as a launching pad to build a stronghold of failure, shame and condemnation in my life. I was guilty of eating more than I should have. Even as a kid I’d sneak candy and cookies whenever I could.
Instead of asking God for forgiveness, repenting of my sin and turning around, I chose to wallow in shame and condemnation. Guilt says, “I have done something wrong,” but shame says, “I am wrong.”
Shame is guilt turned inward. We are all guilty. There is not one person who has ever been born, except Jesus, who has never sinned. Sin is a fact of this life. It is easy to reconcile our guilt by simply asking for forgiveness. If we are truly repentant and confess our sins, then Jesus is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9 NIV).
How Addiction Is Born
The first thing many of us do when we feel we have failed is to invite condemnation and shame to flood us. When the poor, poor pitiful me syndrome happens, instead of using it to propel us to do something about our plight, we bury our sorrows in ice cream, cake or whatever addiction pops into our minds.
This only makes us believe we are failures once again. We haven’t caught on to what the enemy is doing. He whispers nasty words of failure and shame in our ears while telling lies which sound so soothing and inviting. “I’m so sorry you are feeling sad, but I can help you. Just eat this cake and ice cream and you’ll feel better in no time. Yes, you are a failure, but that’s Ok. I’ve got the solution.”
It becomes an endless cycle we don’t see because we are so focused on what we feel and what we think we want that we don’t bring God into the equation. We just assume this isn’t a problem He would even care about.
God, though, will never stop trying to get our attention. He knows for change to happen we must invite Him to do the work within us. It’s the only way to be transformed and transformation is definitely what we want.
He gives us the remedy in Romans 12:2 MSG: “Fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it.”
The only way to be transformed is to allow the Holy Spirit to work on the inside of us. We have to stop thinking like the world and start thinking like God. This takes a total reformation of our thought processes.
Dealing with My Failure
Gaining 250 pounds meant I was a huge failure. However, God never condemned me for it or called me names. He redeemed my failures.
My failures have been my best teachers. They taught me I need to plan what I will do when tempted. When I do fail, I think through what I did and what I can do differently when in a similar situation. My failures aren’t failures anymore because they are helping me learn how to have future successes.
I have been transformed and redefined by the power of the Holy Spirit. He put the focus on who I am today, not what I did which represented a huge failure.
There are real spiritual forces at work in our desire for ice cream and cake. We can overcome those forces only by staying close to Jesus, listening to Him and following what we know He wants us to do.
God does not and never will condemn us if we are His. Romans 8:1 TPT says, “Now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One.”
God doesn’t shame us. We do that ourselves. Those college boys weren’t the source of my shame. I was shaming myself with every bite I took of the foods I knew God had told me were not the best choices for me.
We are not perfect, but thankfully redeeming our failures is where God shines best in our lives. We are human and God is God. Only He knows what we need. He calls us redeemed, beloved and beautiful. Those are real words of affirmation.
For more on this subject, check out episode 123 of Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast, “I Am Not A Failure.” Go HERE.